NAUGATUCK — Nina Kosciuszek’s three-hitter stole the show in Naugatuck’s 4-1 win over Hall in Tuesday’s Class LL softball first round, but her right fielder had a memorable final act.
With the tying run at the plate and two outs in the top of the seventh, Amy Dietz made a diving catch in shallow right to clinch the No. 13 Greyhounds’ (15-7) first round win.
Naugatuck advanced to the second round and will play at No. 4 Darien Thursday at 4 p.m.
Kosciuszek cruised through most of the game but in the top of the seventh issued two-out walks to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in 20th-seeded Hall’s lineup. That brought up Colleen Corrigan, who scored the Warriors’ only run the previous inning on a sac fly by Marisa Mitrano.
Corrigan blooped a ball to shallow right field, where Dietz came on and made a tumbling grab to end the game.
“I almost started crying,” said Kosciuszek, who struck out a season-high 10.
Dietz, a senior, recovered from a late jump on the fly ball and rolled over her shoulder when she hit the wet grass.
“I was judging the ball and I knew that I wanted to grab it and squeeze it hard,” Dietz said. “I just kept going the way my body was going. I wanted to catch that for my team.”
Corrigan’s fly out was one of only three balls that reached the outfield off Kosciuszek. She stranded a runner in scoring position in the first with a pair of strikeouts before leaving a pair on in the sixth when she fielded a comebacker.
“I just stayed focused and kept going batter by batter,” Kosciuszek said.
“Nina did a very nice job pitching,” Naugatuck coach Kevin Wesche said. “I thought she had very good control. In the last inning she just wanted to make me nervous and put a few more gray hairs on my head.”
Naugatuck took a 3-0 lead in the third on three straight RBI hits by the top of the lineup. Gillian Fortier drove a sharp liner up the middle to score Jackie Aronin for the game’s first run, and Kara Klimaszewski smashed a triple to deep left moments later to make it a 2-0 advantage.
“It felt great,” said Klimaszewski, who also singled and scored in the fifth. “I haven’t been hitting lately so it was amazing.”
Wesche said the week off between the Greyhounds’ quarterfinal exit in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament and the state tourney opener helped Klimaszewski.
“A lot of the things we had to tweak on her were above the shoulders,” Wesche said. “She had to recognize that she’s a quality hitter and she’s the No. 2 hitter because she can do it all. She’s done a great turnaround.”
Sarah Chandler ripped a single through the left-side hole to plate Klimaszewski and give the ‘Hounds a 3-0 lead.
Chandler and Klimaszewski both had two-hit games for Naugy. Sydney Cotto, Fortier, Dietz and Aronin also recorded hits off Hall starter Lianna Pevar, who struck out three.
Naugy’s loss to Holy Cross in the NVL quarters gave Klimaszewski a feeling she didn’t want again Tuesday.
“I just didn’t want it to happen again,” she said. “Hitting, fielding, it was all part of it today.”